ISLAMABAD – Admitting international support to Afghan refugees is getting thinner, a senior official from the United Nations’ refugee agency said Tuesday that the Refugee Summit Islamabad held here on Feb. 17-18 will evoke more investment for the displaced population.
Indrika Ratwatte, director of regional bureau for Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told Xinhua on the sidelines of the international refugee conference that host countries like Pakistan and Iran need continuous support from international donors to make lives of the Afghan refugees easier.
Apart from the conventional donor organisations, the conference may also succeed in engaging non-traditional partners to come in for the support of the refugees, he said.
"To be fair for Pakistan, they have many challenges of their own development. So when refugee children would have access to school, there must be additional support for the schools. This is something that’s strongly encouraging and requiring donors to come in," said Ratwatte.
Currently, the UNHCR is implementing a dignified repatriation of the Afghan refugees back to their homeland. He said the UN agency planned to enable the Afghan government to create conditions that would enable refugees to voluntarily repatriate and reintegrate sustainably in Afghanistan.
The UNHCR will "ask the international community to support that effort by supporting Afghanistan in making those investments in the priority areas, which we have identified together with the Afghan government. This could be access to basic health, basic education, livelihoods, these are the things that refugees want to see back home."
The UNHCR official said that peace process in Afghanistan will enable return of the Afghan refugees as all the concerned parties who are able to contribute to that process are contributing to a peace dialogue, which is what the refugees want — peace, safety and security to go back home.
China is playing a critical role to bring peace in Afghanistan by trying to help the country have a peace process. The country has a long standing relationship with Pakistan and also with Afghanistan, so it is in a very critical position to facilitate the peace process, enabling the return of the refugees, he said.
Talking about Pakistan’s role as a host for refugees, the official said that the country has been showing an unparalleled hospitality to the refugees for the last 40 years, and the UNHCR has also partnered with Pakistan and also with Iran who is hosting another chunk of the Afghan refugees, from the very beginning with the support of international donors.
Talking about the need of stronger ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said that the two countries should have a constructive dialogue engagement towards durable peace. "This is a critical juncture. And I think both countries are committed to looking forward. And that’s what is critical that the both countries should forge a mutually supportive way forward for peace and progress."